I’ve been reading a lot of articles from writers I’ve subscribed to, talking about getting ready for he new year. Is it really worth all the trouble?  Resolutions, goals, plans good intentions . . . is it really worth all the trouble?
In the past couple of years I’ve heard reports that New Year’s Resolutions may cause more problems than they resolve: the pressure to get things done, the resulting feelings of being a failure when resolutions are broken, and the stress to live up to any intentions announced to others makes a new year more dreadful than hopeful.
Is there really hope to anticipate for a new year?  Or is it all a pipe dream that comes crashing down on those who buy into the theory that a New Year is something to look forward to with excitement?  Read the outlook of the writer of Ecclesiastes in the first ten verses of the Teacher’s book (NIrV):

1 These are the words of the Teacher. He was the son of David. He was also king in Jerusalem.

2 “Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Everything is completely meaningless!
Nothing has any meaning.”
3 What does a man get for all of his work?
Why does he work so hard on this earth?
4 People come and people go.
But the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises. Then it sets.
And then it hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south.
Then it turns to the north.
Around and around it goes.
It always returns to where it started.
7 Every stream flows into the ocean.
But the ocean never gets full.
The streams return
to the place they came from.
8 All things are tiresome.
They are more tiresome than anyone can say.
But our eyes never see enough of anything.
Our ears never hear enough.
9 Everything that has ever been will come back again.
Everything that has ever been done will be done again.
Nothing is new on earth.
10 There isn’t anything about which someone can say,
“Look! Here’s something new.”
It was already here long ago.
It was here before we were.

Doesn’t that just make your day??  I wonder if he was doing a year-end review and became overwhelmed by all of the resolutions he’d failed to keep for the year?

I actually believe that resolutions and goals are beneficial.  One of them needs to be resolving to establish habits that help me keep my resolutions!

Perhaps the place to begin is with the resolution to be the person God wants me to be.  Because it will impress everyone else?  No, I think the only way it can work is when I’m doing the right thing because it’s in appreciation of what he’s done for me and wants for me.  By being His man, I am guaranteed of being better than I would ever achieve on my own.

Read the conclusion of the Teacher’s book about the right way to live (Eccl. 12:13 & 14, NIV):

13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

The writer of Hebrews adds (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIrV):

1 A huge cloud of witnesses is all around us. So let us throw off everything that stands in our way. Let us throw off any sin that holds on to us so tightly. Let us keep on running the race marked out for us.
2 Let us keep looking to Jesus. He is the author of faith. He also makes it perfect. He paid no attention to the shame of the cross. He suffered there because of the joy he was looking forward to. Then he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 He put up with attacks from sinners. So think about him. Then you won’t get tired. You won’t lose hope.

Make the New Year really new because you are committed to being His New Creation.

For a new year for your church, as a layman or minister, a new year of stepping into the role God has fitted you with, give me a call or contact me with a message about what you’d like to discuss regarding your future.

Pastors: your Free Report is waiting for you to help you Get Your Staff on Board for Church Harmony.  Click here to learn how you can download it now.

BEST WISHES FOR A MEANINGFUL NEW YEAR!

10. Most of the grass has stopped growing so you can stop mowing the lawn. (Kind of iffy in south Louisiana!)
 9. You can begin to enjoy songs that have familiar lyrics because you’ve heard them since childhood.

 8. The spirit of love and giving means at least one person in the parking lot at the mall will allow you to have the empty parking space without having to play chicken.

 7. The it’s the time of year that you’ll have lots of reading material that only requires a magnifying glass to read the fine print explaining shipping & handling costs that exceed the price of the gift you’re ordering for your loved one.

 6. Going to church means no boring sermons — lots of music to brighten your spirit!

 5. Five golden rings!!

 4. Lots of reasons to forget about the definition of the word, “diet.”

  3. Family that is at least polite to each other, regardless of the qualifiers; e.g. “in-law,” “step-_______, or “distant” (as in “distant cousin,” etc).

 2. Going to church isn’t considered punishment because the message — in song, word
and fellowship — has a depth of meaning as we’re reminded of the Reason for the
Season.

And the number one reason to like Christmas:

 1. The Celebration is the greatest reason of all for celebrating!

Make this a real season for celebrating for you and yours.  Enjoy Christmas for the reason that you can celebrate all year long in the New Year!

Sign up for my free report for Getting Your Church Staff on Board for Church Harmony on the right side of the Home page

I saw a church sign not long ago as I was walking a few blocks to lunch for some fine dining at Mickey D’s. It read:

WHEN THEY THINK IT’S OVER

                 CASUAL SUNDAY”

My first thought was that apparently this congregation, or the pastor, figures that when the spiritual struggle is over, you don’t have to get dressed up in your “Sunday best” anymore.

OR, could it mean that the “they” being referred to is the “Enemy?”  Meaning that we will know that unbelievers think they’ve disarmed Believers when they show up in casual clothes?

Or does it mean that . . . aw, baloney . . . we all know that the sermon was titled, “When They Think It’s Over,” and it was delivered on Casual Sunday.  But you can see how easy it is to get things confused when all you have to go on is words with no vocal, facial or body language signals to let you know exactly what is meant by the words.

How many times do emotions result in misquotes and misunderstandings, intentional or unintentional?  What a mess that creates!  And still, that wasn’t my first thought.  My second question was, “When it’s ‘over,’ does that mean we can finally be ourselves?  We no longer have to put on a façade to please everyone else?”  WOW!  A chance to be ourselves . . . without pretense!

I walked by that sign as I began to question and consider and ponder. Then a block away, I went back to get a picture with my phone.  My thought then became, “Why can’t we be ourselves now!??”  I believe that’s part of what Jesus was saying when he told us that “the truth will make you free.”

Could it be that, by being ourselves as He made us to be, we would be free . . .

. . . to focus on what God thinks about us more than what others think about us, so we would know that His “right things” will develop in our lives?

. . . not to worry about what others think because we would live as He wants, which is always the best for all concerned?

. . . to know the confidence of facing those who are offended by right living, because their offense is not our doing?

. . . to enjoy fellowship with those who think differently about fulfilling God’s plan in their lives because we could appreciate the different functions of the Body of Christ?

. . . to celebrate being with God’s children, rather than having to go to church to be sure everyone else knows what “good Christians” we are?

. . . to live . . . to worship . . . to be confident . . . to know Life!

So, how does a church experience unity if everyone’s free to be uniquely themselves?  Maybe the answer to the question is in the question itself.  Encourage each member to experience the unique freedom to be themselves, and celebrate the unity that Jesus provides as he dwells in each of us.

Whatchathink?  Can you, a minister, be yourself?  Can you, in a leadership place in your church, be yourself?

If you’re called by God to help shepherd His flock and wish to move toward your greater potential, contact me utilizing the “Let Me Hear From You” page at ChurchHarmonyNow.com.

If you’re a pastor, you may be thinking in terms of what your congregation needs in a good sermon, like more depth of theological understanding, or a more dynamic sermon.

If you’re the music minister, worship leader . . . whatever your title is in that scope of ministry . . . you may be thinking in terms of better solos, more inspirational choruses or greater classical anthems during the offertory.

Age group ministers could be brainstorming how to have a bigger, better event.  Possibly a bigger youth retreat.  Maybe a children’s activity that would get the attention of the community and attract unchurched families.

Just what does your congregation need?  Think about this question in terms of the entire church body . . . adults, teens, children, seniors, singles, everybody . . . and approach their needs as a group.

So, how can you go about finding what they need?

  • In House Survey — Do a survey among congregants over a 3 week period.  Give several options for them to choose from along with an “Other” area where they can add their own thoughts.
  • On Line Survey — Use the e-mail addresses you’ve collected and ask for your members to respond to an e-mail survey.
  • Ad Hoc Committee — Form a committee of church “pillars” and less involved members, extremes of involvement, to explore possible needs that will give direction to the church’s ministry.
  • Talk to Ministers at Other Churches — Their congregation’s needs will differ, and at the same time, their responses may broaden your scope of possibilities.
  • Staff Brainstorming — Plan a staff retreat and give them a heads-up before hand on the topic to be discussed.  Spend the retreat brainstorming possible needs to address as an umbrella direction for all areas of ministry.
  • Listen — Sometimes we get so busy telling people what to believe and what the Bible says that we forget to just listen to what people are saying to us.

Obviously, most important is our need to listen to God.  His direction will be the key to any method of zeroing in on what your church needs.

     Well-planned church ministries reflect unity. There is a variety of gifts. But these gifts are to be exercised and used in ways which are complementary, not competitive. Our diversity of gifts can be magnified in power when expressed in planned unity—not uniformity—unity!
The various tasks of a church need to be planned to be supportive of one another.*

Can you find the one need that will direct you and/or your staff to resolve all concerns?  That would be an unrealistic expectation!  However, if all areas of ministry are working in the same direction to meet the primary need(s) of the congregation, there will be an increased likelihood of finding success by God’s measurement.

    Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. — 2 Corinthians 13:11

Whatchathink about this? Are you pausing to listen . . . to God and then to the membership so you know you’re leading them in the right direction?

Ready to move forward in your ministry but find yourself stuck?  Give me a call now at 225-773-8883 or message me on the Let Me Hear From You page.  I will work with you to break the “log jam” and get your ministry flowing again!

*Tidwell, C. (1985). Church Administration: Effective Leadership for Ministry (93). Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.

Ever been so hurt by something that occurred at church that you’ve decided the only way to deal with it is to find another church to attend?  I know what you’ve mean!  When it blind-sides you, it’s a, “I never imagined anything like this would happen in my wildest nightmares!!”  kind of situations.  And every time it happens, it’s one of those situations . . . again.

It may have been a pastor, or a church member who was working on assumptions without knowing the whole issue.  Now it’s a doctrinal/theological issue.

Whaddayagonnado??

Do you ask God why He let the situation happen?  Do you blame Him for what’s happening?  Do you confront the person with your opinion of what you disagree with?  Do you start your own Bedside Bible Church where you’re the one running things “right” and no one else can possibly mess it up?

There is no way anyone else can make that decision for you.  You have to live with your choice, so you’d better do your best to make a decision that you can live with in your relationship with your Father.

Whaddayagonnado??

It’s not a decision that affects you, alone.  It affects the rest of the fellowship of believers to some degree or another.  Better pray before you decide, instead of asking God to bless what you decide to do after you’ve made your choice.

Thinkaboutthis:

Who’s Your Boss?  People seem to always feel free to comment on the minister’s work.  The pastor’s sermon, the music minister’s music, the youth minister’s lack of Bible study or lack of  social activities or lack of . . . something.  Educational ministry, age group ministry . . . too much . . . too little . . . wrong theology . . . failure to emphasize what “I” believe.

St Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Church, Houston, TX

So, who’s your boss? The “Sunday School” answer would be to do what God wants.  That’s the easy answer, and technically the right answer.  But it’s not necessarily the real answer.  Often the reality of trying to do what you believe God wants interferes with your congregation’s wants.  And the immediate, pressing demands or hints that you should cooperate are so hard to ignore because they’re real.

What if they’re right?  What if what the people you’re pastoring are being used by God to help you know what they need?  And again, confusion seems to reign as you try to separate who’s actually trying to send you the right message — people or God.

What are you trying to achieve?  

  •  Ministry — Service to others in Jesus’ Spirit.  Probably the number 1 reason people get into The Ministry.  It is undoubtedly the right reason. The position of authority that it is, it brings with it a heady rush that derails the original motivation if one is not careful. Read the rest of this entry »

Ever been invited to a new friend’s house and as soon as you walk in, you feel at home?  What is it that makes you feel so comfortable?

You go to a social gathering and when you walk in, you feel at home.  The atmosphere is so welcoming that you don’t have to find “your spot.”  The whole place is your spot.

So, when visitors enter the building where your fellowship of believers worships, are they at home?  Prepare your church to greet visitors so they’ll feel at home without overkill that is too much for them.

Implement some of these ideas to welcome guests and help them feel comfortable:

  • Station greeters in the parking lot to greet everyone, and when they meet visitors, escort them to the next greeter(s) at the door of the building.
  • Have greeters at the doors escort guests to the welcome area where they are then taken to their Bible study (Sunday School) class and they’re introduced to others in the class.
  • Have a member or couple in the class invite the guests to sit with them in the worship service.
  • Have greeters at the doors prepared to walk guests to empty seats in the worship center and introduce them to those near where they sit. Read the rest of this entry »

Maybe you didn’t know it, but it is really important to God how you look!  How do I know?  
Think about it with me . . . .

In most churches, on any given Sunday, you can see some really fine outfits.  I appreciate the attitude of many that dressing up in honor of God as they worship is part of their expression of His importance.  At the same time, I know there are many who dress up for the attention/approval of everyone and anyone else that might see them.

In some churches the clothes might be casual, even real casual, but it’s still often an attempt to impress those that will be seen and will see him or her.  Casual is contemporary.  Casual is the younger generation’s way of distinguishing themselves. Casual gets the attention of their peers.

On the other hand, coat & tie for the men, nice “Sunday dress” for the ladies is a more mature generation’s way of showing God respect . . . and impressing each other.  It seems obvious that if it’s that important to God’s children, it must be important to God. Right?

What about the person who gets critiqued, maybe even to their face?

–“Mrs. Windham, my Sunday School teacher, told me I should dress nicer for church.”

–“Maybe we can help you find something more fitting for joining us as we worship God.”

Is the appearance of an individual the criteria that determines one’s commitment to God?

In general, parents do need to help their children learn how to dress in public. Hopefully parents will take that job seriously, though one sometimes wonders about that when seeing many of the adolescents in a shopping mall! There are limits for what is socially acceptable.

And, yes, churches do have distinct personalities.  I remember a time in a First  Church, in which I was a minister, a woman introduced me to a young man in very casual clothes.  He’d come in on his own for the service. After giving me his name, she said, “Maybe you could help him find some acceptable clothes to wear to church.”  OMGoodness!!  As soon as I could get him to a place where we could talk privately, I apologized for the embarrassment and told him he looked fine.  In fact, I thought he did look fine.  It just didn’t meet her standard. Read the rest of this entry »

Done any church shopping lately?  It’s frequently confusing, scary, and in many ways, almost without exception, it’s awkward.

It can be confusing if you’re new to the community and don’t know anyone to get a reference from.  If you have someone you trust to get a recommendation from, at least you anticipate some sense of comfort at the place they suggested.  And still . . . .

  • It might be scary even with a recommendation because there is still the unknown to face.  The unknown raises a person’s anxiety because . . . it’s unknown.  I think that’s pretty self-explanatory. Read the rest of this entry »

Pulaski Heights Baptist Church, Little Rock, AR

When I’m talking to people and the topic of church comes up, I’m interested in where they attend or what their background is.  When they say they, “Used to go to . . . .” or they, “Don’t go to church any more,” I’m especially curious about their reasons.  The reasons are most often in three categories.  One is that their moms made them go and now they can’t be made to go, so they don’t.  The other reasons are that they didn’t like something that happened to them in church or something about church they don’t like.

The something about church they don’t like is interesting to me because I’m not sure if there is anything that can be done to change a lot of the problems that are blamed.  Things like:

  • “The church is too organized” (or too disorganized.)
  • “The church is too big.” ( or too small.)
  • “The church is full of old people.” (or too many young people.)
  • “The church is just trying to entertain people.” (or it’s too boring.)
  • “The pastor is only interested in money.”
  • “There are too many hypocrites in the church.”

. . . do we need to go on?  The excuses are unending.  How can these be remedied?  (There really is nothing that can undo mom’s rule about church attendance.  God bless her for caring enough that she tried to help her children learn a moral way to live and to know about God.) Read the rest of this entry »

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